EU Foreign Ministers agree to strengthen EU civilian mission in Armenia

  • 12.12.2023
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On 11 December, the EU Foreign Affairs Council agreed to strengthen the European Union civilian mission in Armenia (EUMA), increasing its presence on the ground from 138 staff to 209. 

Announcing this, EU High Representative Josep Borrell said it was “an important increase in the size of the mission, and this is a way of increasing the stability of Armenia’s international border with Azerbaijan”.  

He added the EU believed there was “a historic chance to achieve peace in the region”, and was committed to continue its support to these efforts, by working with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

Earlier yesterday, Borrell had an informal meeting with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan.  

“We are currently working on strengthening our relations with Armenia,” said Borrell. 

“I see that Armenia clearly sees the benefits of increasing cooperation with us, and we are ready to respond positively.” 

Foreign Affairs Council: Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell after the meeting

It has been a long day, and it is still not finished because immediately after this press conference, we are going to have the Ministerial Meeting with the Eastern Partnership.  

We started the day with informal exchanges with Foreign Minister of Armenia, Mr [Ararat] Mirzoyan.  

You know that we are currently working on strengthening our relations with Armenia. 

I see that Armenia clearly sees the benefits of increasing cooperation with us, and we are ready to respond positively.   

As a first step of this increasing cooperation, today the Foreign Affairs Council agreed to strengthen our civilian [CSDP] mission in Armenia (EUMA), increasing our presence on the ground from 138 staff to 209. This is an important increase of the size of the mission, and this is a way of increasing the stability of Armenia’s international border with Azerbaijan.  

We believe that there is a historic chance to achieve peace in the region. It is an opportunity. We are committed to continue our support to these efforts – by working together with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The fact that we have decided to increase by such an important number our staff on this mission shows our clear commitment to the stability in the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan and [is] an important contribution to the peace efforts. 

At the Council, we focused – as every time, since two years – on the way to help Ukraine in winning its war of defence against Russia’s aggression.  

This time, Minister [for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro] Kuleba was with us in person and debriefed on the latest developments.  

Ukraine is pushing on two fronts. 

The military one, and in the military front, Russia is regrouping, mobilising more troops, receiving and producing more military equipment. And we have to support Ukraine in facing that. 

And the other front is the accession path, where important reforms have been delivered by Ukraine and where European Union leaders must take important decisions this week.  

Ukrainians are fighting on the battlefield and Ukrainians are working a lot in order to continue doing reforms, in order to deliver and continue on the European Union path.  

Let’s move in detail to the military side. Ahead of the winter and to underline his renewed presidential candidature – because you know they are also calling for elections in Russia – Putin tries to create a new momentum in his war against Ukraine. 

Last night, Russia launched its first ballistic missiles attack on Kyiv in more than two months. There had been a pause, but now, they came back attacking Kyiv with missiles. They continue targeting civilians, infrastructure – export infrastructure – and we must do everything to avoid that Putin’s Russia can prevail and [we] must continue supporting Ukraine.  

We have already launched a dialogue and expert consultations with Ukraine on future security commitments.  

We have to provide operational military support, yes. But we have also to work on a predictable long-term funding.  

Today, at the meeting, an overwhelming majority of Ministers was very clear: this is not the moment to weaken our support to Ukraine. On the contrary, this is the moment to increase [it] and speed it up.  

This is not the moment to weaken. It is the moment to continuously, stubbornly supporting Ukraine, increasing the support.  

To do that, we need to remain united. We need to strengthen our defence industry, to help Ukraine to boost their own defence industry. We need to agree on the 8th European Peace Facility package – which is still pending – and we need to get a new European Peace Facility top-up of €5 billion.  

I expect the Leaders of the European Union to give guidance on these important decisions later this week.  

I informed the Ministers also on finalising the proposals on revenues from immobilised assets. This proposal will be submitted to the Member States tomorrow. Because there is a Council decision, that I address to the Council, and also, together with the European Commission, a Council regulation that will be presented to the College. But keep in mind that these are proposals that have to be approved by the Council.  

The Ministers discussed everything related to Ukraine, and they stressed that our future security and stability depends critically on the way Ukraine is defending itself. 

Then, we went to the discussion on Gaza and Israel. 

I submitted an options paper on the stabilisation of Gaza for the “day after”. This options paper was very well received by the Ministers. 

We discussed about the catastrophic – apocalyptical, I would say – situation of civilians in Gaza following the terrorist attacks on the 7th of October and the military answer of Israel, with an incredible amount of civilian casualties.  

I think the human suffering constitutes an unprecedented challenge to the international community. Civilian casualties are between 60% and 70% of the overall deaths. 60% to 70% of the deaths are civilians. According to the Health Ministry of Gaza, the number of victims is about 18,000 – for sure more, because nobody knows how many are under the rubbles. 85% of the population is internally displaced – it means around 1.9 million people.  

And what I am saying about the rubbles reminds of the importance of the destruction of buildings in Gaza which is more or less – or even greater – than the destruction suffered by the German cities during the Second World War. Just in order to have an idea of the humanitarian situation that the United Nations have been denouncing in the last days. 

This is in Gaza. But we are also alarmed by the violence in the West Bank by extremist settlers. We are also alarmed by the fact that the Israeli government has approved the construction of another 1,700 housing units in East Jerusalem to expand the settlements – which we consider illegal under international law. We condemn this decision, and we will prepare a statement fixing the position about it. 

Against this background, we reaffirmed that our financial support to the Palestinian Authority must continue.  

Ministers made very clear to the [European] Commission that our annual funding to the Palestinian Authority shall be released swiftly, following the review of European Union’s assistance, which found no evidence nor breach of European Union rules, nor any kind of signal that this money could be funding terrorism or fuelling hatred and antisemitism. And in the next days, we got assurances from the [European] Commission that this support will be released.  

Then, I proposed to the Foreign Affairs Council a certain number of elements to guide our action – that I think could be or has been supported by a strong majority of the Member States. 

First, no forced displacement of the civilian population of Gaza, nor occupation of the Strip by Israel.  

Continue acting against Hamas, including restrictive measures.  

We will work on imposing sanctions against extremist settlers in the West Bank. I will make a proposal to Member States in this regard, following the example of the United States, and using our general framework to defend human rights.  

We are working on this proposal that will be submitted to Member States.  

We will also see how our missions on the ground – remember that we have two missions; one police mission in Ramallah (EUPOL COPPS) to support the Palestinian Authority’s judiciary and police; and another, EUBAM Rafah, our border assistance mission – how can contribute to the efforts to stabilise the occupied [Palestinian] Territory.  

Finally, together with our Special Representative for the Middle East Process [Sven Koopmans], we will work on proposals on how to pursue the political initiative for ensuring governance in Gaza and working on the two-state solution. We will have to be fully engaged in looking for this two-state solution, that the whole international community is asking for and for the time being, the Israeli government is refusing. 

We will work on proposing initiatives in order to make this solution a reality. Knowing how difficult it can be, we believe it is the best – if not the only solution – to give security and peace both to Israel and Palestine. The security of Israel cannot be reached just by military means, it requires a political settlement of the conflict.  

Finally, we discussed about the Sahel, where we face unprecedented challenges. We took note of the results of the ECOWAS Summit that took place yesterday and we will continue supporting ECOWAS’ mediation efforts. 

We know that the situation on the ground is deteriorating in terms of security and governance. The military juntas are strengthening their hold on power, restricting freedoms, dismantling the democratic institutions and getting closer to Russia. 

We also officially launched a new CSDP initiative in support of the West African countries of the Gulf of Guinea based on their demand and in agreement with the countries of the region: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Benin. We want to be more flexible and more innovative in our approach to this mission.

And after the Council, in some minutes, we will proceed to the Eastern Partnership Ministerial Meeting.  

We will meet with the [Foreign] Ministers from Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, in order to reinforce our cooperation. Certainly, Belarus will not be there. 

It is a signal of our unity in support to the entire region and to the Eastern Partnership policy, sending an important geo-strategic message to Moscow. 

This will provide an opportunity to get political guidance on how the Eastern Partnership can further contribute to the stability and security in the region, which has been very much affected by the impact of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, in the context of the European Union enlargement. 

Thank you. 

Q&A 

Q. Usted ha reconocido en varias ocasiones que la expansión de los asentamientos es uno de los grandes obstáculos para la solución de los dos estados. ¿Qué es lo que plantea a la hora de hacer frente a eso? Y, la propuesta para sancionar a los colonos que va a presentar a los Estados miembros. No sé qué tiene en mente, si va en línea con solo la prohibición de viajes de Estados Unidos. ¿Qué calendario? O si, por lo que ha notado hoy en la conversación con los 27 ministros, si cree que puede haber un consenso para ello entre los 27. Y, también quería preguntar, mañana hay una votación en la Asamblea General de Naciones Unidas sobre la situación en Gaza. Ya vimos lo que pasó hace unas semanas, unos meses, con esas divisiones muy patentes de la Unión Europea, no sé si han coordinado una postura conjunta para que mañana no ocurra lo mismo. 

Mi papel es hacer propuestas al Consejo, pero como saben, la política exterior de la Unión, primero, pertenece a los Estado miembros – cada uno de ellos tiene su propia política exterior – y para hacer una política exterior común, necesito la unanimidad de todos. Lo cual, en algunas ocasiones, hace difícil mi papel de representación en una política común que a veces, simplemente no existe – porque hay posiciones divergentes que no permiten definir una posición asumida por todos, como usted indica lo que ocurrió recientemente en un voto en Naciones Unidas.  

Yo creo que ha llegado el momento de pasar de las palabras a los hechos, y dejar de decir que estamos preocupados – que lo estamos – que condenamos – que lo hacemos – y pasar a tomar las medidas que podemos tomar con respecto a los actos de violencia contra las poblaciones palestinas en el West Bank. Ya son demasiados actos de violencia y son demasiados muertos. Sobre todo, después del 7 de octubre. Lo hemos discutido hoy, no puedo decir que haya habido unanimidad, pero todavía no he puesto una propuesta sobre la mesa. Pero la pondré.  

Mis servicios están trabajando en cooperación con los Estados miembros para recabar una lista de personas conocidas por sus actividades violentas, sus ataques contra los palestinos en el West Bank. Y propondremos sanciones contra ellos en el marco de nuestros instrumentos al respecto en defensa de los Derechos Humanos, y los Estados miembros decidirán si les parece oportuno adoptar estas medidas. 

Es cierto que va a haber en la Asamblea General [de Naciones Unidas] un voto que sigue al rechazo, al veto por parte de Estados Unidos, de la propuesta elevada al Consejo de Seguridad por parte de Emiratos [Árabes Unidos], y que tuvo el apoyo – fue copresentada – por algunos Estados miembros de la Unión, y fue votada a favor por los Estados miembros de la Unión que son miembros del Consejo de Seguridad. Un miembro permanente y un miembro temporario rotatorio.  

Los Estados miembros que votaron a favor en el Consejo de Seguridad, supongo que votarán a favor en la Asamblea General. Otros, no lo tengo tan claro. Mi papel es conseguir una posición común, pero no se consiguió en la última votación. Veremos qué es lo que ocurre en esta [Asamblea]. Los Estados miembros que tuvieron una ocasión de apoyar la propuesta en el Consejo de Seguridad, de alguna manera definieron una posición que es la suya, no de la Unión, y cada uno de los Estados miembros de la Unión definirán la suya mañana. No puedo garantizar que haya una única posición.  

Q. High Representative, did you get to unanimity on the idea – which has been supported publicly by Germany, France and Italy – of a dedicated sanctions regime for Hamas? What would be the purpose of this sanctions’ regime, given that Hamas is already listed as a terrorist organisation by the European Union? 

En efecto, Hamás hace mucho tiempo que está considerada como una organización terrorista y la seguimos considerando así. Desde luego, el 7 de octubre hicieron muchos méritos para que siga siendo considerada como tal. Ha habido esta propuesta, se ha discutido. No ha habido ninguna oposición y, por lo tanto, se planteará en el Consejo para su aprobación. 

Al mismo tiempo, ha habido países que también han señalado la importancia de actuar – como he explicado antes – contra los actos de violencia contra los palestinos en el West Bank (Cisjordania), que las proprias autoridades israelitas han calificado también como actos que utilizan el terror como arma contra las poblaciones civiles. 

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-250294

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